From deities to data - "For thousands of years humans believed that authority came from the gods. Then, during the modern era, humanism gradually shifted authority from deities to people... Now, a fresh shift is taking place. Just as divine authority was legitimised by religious mythologies, and human authority was legitimised by humanist ideologies, so high-tech gurus and Silicon Valley prophets are creating a new universal narrative that legitimises the authority of algorithms and Big Data." [more inside]
In his follow-up to Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari envisions what a 'useless class' of humans might look like as AI advances and spreads - "I'm aware that these kinds of forecasts have been around for at least 200 years, from the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, and they never came true so far. It's basically the boy who cried wolf, but in the original story of the boy who cried wolf, in the end, the wolf actually comes, and I think that is true this time." [more inside]
The three party system - "There are three major political forces in contemporary politics in developed countries: tribalism, neoliberalism and leftism (defined in more detail below). Until recently, the party system involved competition between different versions of neoliberalism. Since the Global Financial Crisis, neoliberals have remained in power almost everywhere, but can no longer command the electoral support needed to marginalise both tribalists and leftists at the same time. So, we are seeing the emergence of a three-party system, which is inherently unstable because of the Condorcet problem and for other reasons." [more inside]
"Saada: In some ways, “inconspicuous chic” is about a perceived entitlement to money, not money itself. People who flaunt their wealth by wearing tons of brands and being flashy are not considered wealthy; more often they’re seen as nouveau riche vis-a-vis old-monied. ...Maybe if they were bulldozing low income housing to build a huge Barney's I would be concerned, but to be upset about how rich ladies shop is almost pointless." ---- Clothes & Class - An Adult Magazine roundtable discussion of the minutiae of high fashion, low budgets, the history of class signaling and inconspicuous chic. With Saada Ahmed, Katherine Bernard, Durga Chew-Bose, Fiona Duncan, Hari Nef, Steve Oklyn and Arabelle Scicardi. (NSFW main photos and related ads. Extreme fashion nerdery)
The one percent isn’t some amorphous boogeyman inside all of us... It’s a very real class. And we don’t need a list of cultural “symptoms” of one-percent-style privilege to figure out who they are. Just run the numbers. If your household — or to be generous, the one you grew up in — makes an adjusted gross income of at least $343,000, you are, in fact, the one percent. Even if you smoke meth, went to boot camp, and are on your third marriage. Yes, even if most of your friends didn’t finish college and live kinda far from a Whole Foods. Now, if you or the household you grew up in make an adjusted gross income of less than $340,000, you are, technically, the 99 percent.Let Them Eat Privilege
Introducing Sociology: Tim Kreider's influential 1999 essay (previously) on how Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut uses sex and infidelity to cover up a story of greed and murder by the elite gets a brand new afterward by the author to introduce a new site for his non-fiction writing, TimKreider.com
A survey by a high-end estate agent has revealed that there are more domestic servants in the exclusive London district of Mayfair now than 200 years ago, and indeed, in the élite London neighbourhoods which have been bought up by absentee oligarchs, often only the lights in the servants' quarters are on at night. For those who fancy a life of serving the super-rich, there are courses to prepare them for catering to their masters' exacting whims. But it's not all rosy at the top; the prices of luxury goods (including foie gras, Patek Philippe watches, paintings by artists such as Cézanne and Rothko) in the basket used to calculate the Affluent Luxury Living Index have been rising at a rate exceeding inflation.
Dan Grover and Mike Belfrage have mapped transit inequality in the Bay Area after reading a New Yorker piece on the New York City subway (previously). The ways in which a widening income gap are changing the demography of San Francisco have been widely reported of late (previously, previously). The project's code is available if you'd like to try mapping your own city.
A well-executed and terrifying visual representation of exactly how stratified wealth is in America. It's far worse than you could have imagined. [SLYT]
"American Pastoral" inadvertently reveals Brooks and Halard to be deeply insecure, crass noveau riche, lowballing their renovations by hiring desperate, dirt-cheap Chinese laborers, and whining about maids who can't get to work on time, just because Hurricane Sandy knocked out train service. Where's the Vogue-style profiles of those poor souls? [more inside]
Marriage is a luxury good [NYT] After steadily rising for five decades, the share of children born to unmarried women has crossed a threshold: more than half of births to American women under 30 occur outside marriage. [more inside]
The unlevel playing field - "Contrary to popular perception, poverty and broken homes are underrepresented in the NBA, not overrepresented. ... We believe that skills always trump circumstances. But that's a myth."
9 Things The Rich Don't Want You To Know About Taxes - "4. Many of the very richest pay no current income taxes at all: Paulson made himself $9 billion in fees in just two years. His current tax bill on that $9 billion? Zero... 9. Other countries do it better: no one in Germany or the rest of the modern world goes broke because of accident or illness" (via) [more inside]
"[Bank robber Peter Barry] Lawrence, 71, made his getaway in his wheelchair, with $2,000 in cash on his lap... he took a meandering route down Seventh Avenue until the police caught up with him five minutes later. But that was all part of the plan." And an embedded reporter in Afghanistan notes that "many young soldiers told me that they actually live better in the army, even when deployed, than they did in civilian life, where they couldn't make ends meet, especially when they were trying to pay for college or raise a family by working one or two low-wage jobs" (p. 1). Meanwhile, "parents of means are now resorting to buying franchise businesses to keep their adult children employed." Economic life in contemporary America.
“Being willing to sit in a boring classroom for 12 years, and then sign up for four more years and then sign up for three or more years after that—well, that’s a pretty good measure of your willingness to essentially do what you’re told,” - The Santa Fe Reporter talks to Economist Samuel Bowles about New Mexico's income gap, welfare, social mobility, and a radical way to help. (Via)
- Glom onto wannabe Hollywood scene
Just how rich are you? The worlds 225 richest people have a combined wealth greater than the poorest 2.5 billion people. Where do you fit into the picture? via b3ta
Beverly Hillbillies, Redux! No... not a new movie, but a reality series under development by the shiny and shimmering Tiffany Network. CBS scouts are scouring for a "rural, rustically telegenic" family to be whisked to a brand new home in Beverly Hills, and have a life of luxury bestowed upon them for a period of a year... cameras following them all the way. Crass exploitation of the poor when the gap between rich and poor gets larger and larger? Fun idea to see what happens when someone's dreams come true? Somewhere in the middle? What do people think?